Texas couple's plan to open North Shore business falls flat

Texas couple's plan to open North Shore business falls flat
Published: Jun. 23, 2015 at 8:19 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 23, 2015 at 11:05 PM HST
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WAIALUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Matt and Heather Brown moved to Hawaii from Dallas with Texas sized ambition.

"We brought ourselves out here with the American dream, tried to follow the American dream but unfortunately it turned into a nightmare" Heather says.
Their idea seemed like a perfect fit for the area.  A dune buggy rental company for tourists to cruise around the north shore.
"Everybody has a ton of fun in a dune buggy when they're driving.  It kind of brings out the child in them" said Matt.
However, the entire Aloha Dune Buggy fleet is locked up--locked out of operation due to a registration issue.  Before purchasing the vehicles, Matt made inquiries to the Honolulu DMV and was told by an operator via email "you should not have any issues registering these," so Matt made the purchase.

He bought six, at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars each.   When the vehicles arrived on island, Matt brought them to get registered.  That's when the problems started.
"We were told no-go, vehicles have to be electric powered in your category, gas is not allowed".
So they've sat unused for the past six months.  Matt and Heather estimate they've invested a million dollars into the business, and their losses are mounting.
"It's a constant struggle, it's a constant worry, anxiety is high, stress level is high. How are we going to make it to the next day? Where do we turn now? Where's the accountability?" she said.
The Department of Customer Services issued a statement, in it, addressing the registration:
"The City was contacted by Matt & Heather Brown this past May regarding recreational vehicles that they had shipped to Hawaii to start a business here.
Earlier conversations with one of our MV Inspectors, who is now retired, concentrated on the vehicle specifications. Considering that, he did indicate to the Browns that he didn't feel the vehicles would be a problem.

When the "LSV" (low speed vehicles) where brought in to Hawaii, they were fully inspected, processed, and it became clear that their vehicle type did not fall in any existing vehicle registration category.  For that reason, the City's DMV could not complete the registration of the vehicles.  We realize the situation this put the Browns in, have met personally with them, and have been attempting to explore every option available.  Our City attorneys have been asked to review various legal interpretations of the current state statutes. Legal opinions take time.
In the interest of public safety, the State Department of Transportation delineates the types of vehicles that the counties can register as safe to be driven on Hawaii roadways. LSVs are not included on that list.   LSVs are not to operate over 25 MPH, however, there is question as to whether the engines can be adjusted to allow the vehicles to reach higher speeds. As certified LSVs, these vehicles are not required to have the proper safety equipment on board such as air bags, seat belts, etc. to protect the occupants in case of crashes.  There would also need to be rules developed as to what roadways or highways these vehicles could or could not traverse on.  I would want to see appropriate signage considered informing both renters and the other public drivers sharing the road of the low speed capacity for the interest of public safety.
We also recommended that the Browns seek a change to the statutes, and introduce a category of LSVs to Hawaii's list of acceptable vehicles for registration. In that process, these questions would be fully vetted and at the registration
of such vehicles would be issued with complete public confidence.
The Department of Customer Services would support this move, in support of their business.  We truly regret any misstatements made by an employee that may not have been considering the larger picture at the time." 

Matt and Heather continue to look for options before the next legislative session, as they say they won't have the funds to last that long.  In the meantime, the buggies, and business sit idle.
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